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MORRIS, DON HEATH
MORRIS, DON HEATH (1902–1974). Don Heath Morris, college president, was born in DeSoto, Texas, on August 13, 1902, the son of Byron Palmer and Annie Laurie (Nance) Morris. He attended high school in DeSoto and then Thorp Spring Christian College. In 1924 he graduated from Abilene Christian College and in 1930 he earned an M.A. in education from the University of Texas. He received honorary doctorate degrees from McMurry College in 1956 and from Pepperdine University in 1963. While working on his undergraduate degree at Abilene, he taught at Red Oak High School for two years. Upon his graduation in 1924, Abilene High School employed him as a speech teacher and a debate coach. In 1928 Abilene Christian College offered him a job as a speech instructor. Between 1932 and 1940 Morris acted as both head of the speech department and vice president of the college. In 1940 he became the seventh president of the school. He was the first former student to become president. In 1969 the board of trustees appointed him chancellor, a position he held until his death.
Under his leadership Abilene Christian College underwent enormous expansion in facilities, staff, and students. Like many colleges throughout the country, ACC grew after World War II and the passage of the G.I. Bill. In the late 1940s Morris helped acquire United States Army buildings for the school to use as dormitories and classrooms. He also directed the construction of such new buildings as McKinzie Hall and the Science Building. During his tenure as president, a permanent endowment fund of $1 million was established, and the school was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in the early 1950s. While he was president a graduate school was also established. His contributions to the college are documented in Like Stars Shining Brightly: The Personal Story of Abilene Christian College, a book he cowrote with Max Leach in 1953 to document the early history of the school. Morris served as president of the Texas Council of Church Related Colleges. He was also a member of the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers and the Texas State Teachers Association. He was a member of Phi Delta Kappa and Alpha Chi. Privately, he was active in the Rotary Club, the Anti-Crime Council of Texas, and the Church of Christ, in which he was an elder. He married Alberta Allen on November 1, 1924, and the couple had one son and two daughters. Morris died on the ACC campus of a heart attack on January 9, 1974. After his death, his family contributed $100,000 to the building fund for the construction of the Don H. Morris Center on campus.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in the South and Southwest, Vol. 8.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Robin Dutton, "Morris, Don Heath," accessed April 30, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmoan.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.